2015 Summit on Climate Change at the UN

Who is this letter addressed to ? Why now?

Because of the high-level summit on climate change at the UN next Monday, we are addressing our letter to the president of the UN General Assembly and the Peruvian and French presidents of the UN climate negotiations. However, the target of our litmus test is all governments that will be negotiating the new climate agreement in Paris this December – not just these individual leaders. 

So what? Why is this news?  

This is an unprecedented group of major civil society organisations – including social movement organisations from Asia, Africa and Latin America, trade unions representing 168 million workers in 155 countries, Catholic social justice organisations, and major environment and development NGOs – all coming forward with a clear message about this year’s UN climate negotiations in Paris: that it is a key moment but not the end of the road. Paris will not solve all of our problems and impacted people and civil society will continue holding our governments to account for strong, just climate action well after the negotiations are completed.

There is a lot of hype about the UN climate negotiations in Paris this December. The Paris negotiations are important – we absolutely need a strong and just global agreement on climate action – but we already know that on their own they are not likely to be enough to fix the climate crisis. Our governments have to come up with a strong deal in Paris, but regardless of whether or not they succeed or fail, action and momentum are building up from below even as we speak. Where governments fall short because of unfair influence by elites, corporations and vested interests, people will hold them accountable. Paris is not the end of the road but a beginning.

What do we want to see happen in Paris?

Based on climate science and principles of justice and equity, we know what countries need to do to address the climate crisis – make urgent, dramatic cuts in greenhouse gas emissions and, for rich countries, provide the necessary finance and technology transfers for the same transformation in developing countries, as well as the resources needed for poor communities to adapt to climate impacts. Commitments towards a fundamental transformation in how the world produces, consumes and supports the poorest and most vulnerable is needed, not just some tinkering around the edges. That’s what needs to happen in Paris. 

What do we think is achievable in Paris? 

Unfortunately, because of the current politics – heavy influence of elites and corporations that stand to lose from urgent climate action, especially in places like the US Congress – we already know that any likely Paris outcome will not put the world on track to limit climate change to manageable levels, especially for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable. What can happen in Paris is a framework for sharing the burden of climate action equitably – to ensure that rich industrialized countries do their fair share, and support and incentive the necessary action in developing countries.  

What do we want to happen after Paris? 

Regardless of the outcome of the formal Paris negotiations, we need to see increased momentum for change in 2016 and beyond. If Paris as seen as the culminating moment where leaders come together to “save the climate,” what happens afterwards? Instead of an endpoint, Paris should be an inspiring moment that catalyzes further action. Maybe people will be inspired because Paris opens some new doors; maybe they will be inspired out of anger that our governments are not doing enough. What we don’t want is for people to be disempowered because they expected governments to solve all our problems in Paris, and then are disappointed when that doesn’t happen.